The “Best of Ballet” misses the professional marker.
By Woodruff Laputka
The ambitious performances of young ballet dancers were portrayed at last nights, “The Best of Ballet”, presented by the Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy in the Discovery Theater. This show features a collection of both famous ballet pieces as well as in-house choreographed dances, offering an interesting mixture of music, style and form while still making an effort to surprise and fascinate its audiences by the end of its two Act run.
During these two acts, a multitude of young dancers are put out on the stage to show the audience what they’ve learned. I have to say that, before I go any further, I was looking for the perspective of a layman to the ballet art. That said here is my observation of the production.
Though it was interesting to see some of the real talent in this show, it is understandable why so few people are truly ballet dancers, while so many other young boys and girls decide they are just hopeless dreamers and move on to other things. The striking difference in the aptitude from the older students to the young was, at times, so overwhelming that I almost felt sorry for the slightly older but greatly more talented dancers who had to be on stage with something similar to an elementary school pageant and not sophisticated ballet that they were training for. Some of the younger girls weren’t even paying attention when their cues came on, making it very difficult to experience the peaceful flow that the pre-produced soundtrack demanded. Though understandably they were just young girls making this effort, that doesn’t excuse the fact that their lack of sincerity in the performance made the other dancers look bad, or at least forced me to try and ignore the flippant attitudes that the young girls seemed to exhibit just so that I could experience as much of the ballet that the more sincere dancers were really trying to achieve, even if they were fighting for it. One might argue that it’s a learning curve based on the dancers’ age groups, but that’s usually why you don’t put two apparent age groups with different talents together on stage. It usually doesn’t turn out well.
On the production aspect of things, the show was rather mediocre. The entire first act, though well choreographed and in the vein of the classic Russian ballet, seemed hindered by a constant use of silent, black out breaks in-between dances. It was a lot of the audience sitting in the dark while the occasional sounds of young, slipper footed ballerinas could be heard scampering on and off the stage from behind the curtain, with no music playing to refresh our pallets or our appetite for more dancing , at all. And though dancing is certainly what the show was all about, you cannot excuse bad production work with good dancing, making me wonder just who they had working the operations board up-top. Also, in the more contemporary collection of the second act, the lighting and rhythm that the modern day music scores commanded simply was not present, which in production lingo is pretty damn terrible. Though, again, the dancers made a fine effort and did their best, their talents could not prevent the half second to second long delays in lighting or in music from overtaking the show and dismissing its once hopeful tenure of professionalism. At one point it seemed that the collection of young students on stage were the professionals of the whole presentation, while the rambunctious kids were the ones running the sound board and cueing the lights with little care for timely flashes, or even aesthetically pleasing spot light work. What is worst of all is that while this first occurred in the first act briefly, the classic ballet dances were not hindered, while in the second play, such delays were so common that it was purely damaging to the very time/rhythm oriented performances of both the dances and their strange, contemporary styles.
The Anchorage Classical Ballet Academy offers an interesting opportunity for its students, and there certainly is a lot of attentiveness as well as talent in their ranks of young aspiring dancers. However, as far as shows go, if you are looking for something to accompany the dancing itself, such as a full cast of student dancers that are working just as hard as their peers to make their show the most impressive, or even a group of professional adults who can easily present the complex lighting and musical cues of a more contemporary style, I cannot see the true one-hundred percent value in this, “Best of Ballet.”